By Jeremy Ratliff
Last week’s loss to Marshfield set off a rather unfortunate chain of events over the weekend for the Merrill varsity Girls Basketball squad, as they fell in back to back bouts with Stevens Point and Onalaska in a non-conference matchup.
Following a near 4-hour road trip, the ‘Jays (15-5/7-3 WVC) arrived at Onalaska High School for a bout with the (15-5) Hilltoppers, boasting an identical 15-5 overall record and a 3rd place stance in the equally powerhouse laden Mississippi Valley Conference.
The Merrill ladies mounted a comfortable early lead, jumping ahead 23-16 at intermission. Ona’ would waste no time in showing how much gas they had left in their tank as they returned fire with an impressive 36-point second half effort to uproot the Jays 52-49.
“We found out they are a very good, tight-shooting basketball team,” comments coach Ross Reincke.
“We got out ahead in the first half but they did what good teams do and came back on us in the second.
“We were able to narrow the lead down to a single-point with 45 seconds left with some hot shooting and good opportunities. We drew some fouls but couldn’t follow through from the free-throw line. It was a tough loss but it wasn’t due to lack of team effort I will tell you that. We both ended up being the #2 seed in our sectional so we got a glimpse of how our sectional is shaping up.”
MER: 23 26-49
ONA: 16 36-52
Anna Finnell (11p, 5r,3a); Lindsey Casper (11p, 4r, 2a); Maddix Bonnell (10p, 6r, 3a); Chelsey LaMonica (6p)
Picked off by Point
The 4th ranked (WVC) Stevens Point Panthers (9-11) have proven themselves worthy contenders in the WVC fight to the finish this season. Never quite reaching the top, but refusing to sink to the bottom, the Panthers have fought tooth and nail to hold their own.
Friday night proved no different as they arrived at the MHS Field House and soon found themselves engaged in an all-out slugfest ending up in a tight 27-26 Merrill lead at the half. The Panthers proceeded to break away in the second half, outscoring the Jays 34-23 for the go ahead 61-49 upset-win.
“Friday was a tough night,” Reincke adds.
“Something just wasn’t right. It seemed as if we were just going through the motions and the desire just wasn’t there. Their game got hot and we didn’t have an answer, simple as that.”
As fate would have it, despite the loss the ladies have claimed sole possession of 2nd place in the Valley over D.C. Everest, in the wake of Everest’s 44-35 loss to Marshfield Friday night.
The Jays will close out the regular season Thursday night with a trip to Wisconsin Rapids-Lincoln (2-18/2-9).
SPT: 27 34-61
MER: 26 23-49
Finnell (19p, 5r, 3a); Emily Page (10p, 3r); Morgan Pettit9p, 9r)
By Jeremy Ratliff